For The Answer
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Conservation Director, and Horticulturist
Week of October 3, 2005
“Calendar for October”
This is an unusual autumn in that it is so hot and dry. October 1 is our usual target for fall fertilization of the lawn, but this year it probably would not hurt to be a little slow in applying a “winterizer” fertilizer. Apply one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. feet, which means that you would apply about seven pounds of 15-5-10. The first number is the percentage of nitrogen. Fall lawn fertilization contributes to cold tolerance over the winter and a fast green-up in the spring.
The unseasonably hot weather also means that early in the month it is still time to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent winter weeds.
In the flower garden, plant snapdragons, alyssum, stocks, dianthus, and calendula. Wait on pansies, cyclamen and primula until November. October is the best month to plant cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprout, and cauliflower transplants. Radishes, onions, carrots, turnips, mustard, rutabagas, and beets can be planted by seed.
Keep your tomatoes well watered and fertilized. Slow release lawn fertilizer applied every three weeks at the rate of one cup for every three plants works well. Kelthane or even neem oil and seaweed extract will control spider mites if you apply it the minute you notice the tiny insects on the bottom of the leaves. As they multiply, the leaves begin to look dusty and faded. Once the webs appear, they are too far gone to treat.
Despite the hot weather, brown patch has appeared in lawns that are being over watered or have low areas where the water accumulates. The best preventive tactic is to cut back on water. A dry lawn does not develop fungus. Turfcide, Fungaway, or F-Stop will stop the spread of the disease.
Groundcovers, shrubs, and trees are on sale at area nurseries in the fall. October and November are ideal times to plant because the roots can develop during cool weather. If you got your fill of high water bills this summer trying to keep the lawn green, consider replacing all or part of the lawn with groundcovers, hardscape, or perennials and shrubs with mulch.
The best shade trees are still probably Texas red oak and live oak unless your neighborhood is dominated by them. Also consider Mexican white oak, cedar elm, bur oak, Montezuma cypress, chinkapin oak, lacey oak, or Chinese pistache. Dig the planting hole only as deep as the root ball and two or three times as wide. Do not put anything except the native soil in the planting hole, but mulch over the root system on the surface with shredded brush or leaves.
October is a fun time for hummingbirds. Keep your sugar water feeders full and have potted firebush, firespike, and/or pentas on the patio. Other migrating songbirds move through San Antonio including orioles, American sparrows and warblers. Attract them to your landscape with running water.
To learn about all the birds that frequent San Antonio, join me at the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center on Saturday, October 22 from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., for the Fall Festival and Wildlife Plant Sale. The first 800 individuals over 15 that attend will receive a free xeriscape blooming plant. For $5 ($15 per family), your family can take a guided hayride on the refuge and watch the Last Chance Forever Show. All income from the Festival will be used to support Wildlife Management and Education Programs at the Refuge. The Mitchell Lake Audubon Center is South of Hwy. 410. Take the Moursund Blvd., exit for .5 miles to the entrance. (10750 Pleasanton Road) Call (210) 628-1639 for more information.